Our View: McCaulou’s a sign of Auburn’s economic revival

Our View
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Auburn is a great place to do business, and one of the Bay Area’s best-kept secrets soon will get the opportunity to discover that first-hand. In the process, the rest of the Auburn business community should benefit greatly. McCaulou’s, a family-owned department store with nine locations in the East Bay and Napa, should be open later this summer in the former Gottschalks location on Elm Avenue. Some contractors have already been spotted as improvements on the 40,000-square-foot store begin. Known for its high-quality merchandise and customer service, McCaulou’s should open with its line of clothing, shoes, cosmetics and gifts approximately two years after Gottschalks liquidated its inventory in a sad tale of overexpansion, consolidation and burdensome debt. By most accounts, the Auburn Gottschalks was one of that former chain’s best performing stores. It served thousands of foothills shoppers who enjoyed the selection, affordable prices and convenient location in the Auburn Town Center. Unfortunately, many of Gottschalks other stores weren’t performing. As debts mounted and stores closed, the Auburn location was dragged down, leaving the community without a key ingredient for economic sustainability — a department store that can serve women, men and families with a good mix of merchandise. Auburn should greet McCaulou’s with open arms, and from letters to the Journal in print and online, that appears to be happening. In fact, many Auburn residents contacted McCaulou’s prior to the recent announcement, sending letters and e-mails of encouragement. “It was nice to know that we have people looking forward to us coming to Auburn,” David McCaulou, company president, told the Journal. Some of those folks will be people looking for work. From the construction workers who will remodel the store to the dozens who will stock shelves and serve customers, McCaulou’s will instantly be one of Auburn’s largest employers. McCaulou’s isn’t just a replacement for Gottschalks, but a catalyst for business growth in Auburn. McCaulou’s will invigorate the grocery and drug stores in the center, revitalize the other small stores and restaurants in the center, and help attract tenants for the open storefronts there. As people opt to stay in Auburn for their clothing needs, they’re likely to shop local stores for other items rather than make a special trip to Roseville or Sacramento. That money is like an oil can, lubricating the local economy and generating local sales tax dollars that fund city police, street repairs and other municipal needs. Across the parking lot, First Northern Bank opened earlier this week in the former World Savings location. Moving from its smaller Highway 49 office and into the city limits, First Northern saw the benefit that foot traffic brings. In time, the other stores will, too. So, welcome McCaulou’s. We appreciate your decision to branch outside the Bay Area and open in Auburn. We look forward to a long and successful relationship. ‘Listening to Business’ will measure the recovery Speaking of business in Auburn, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce will get an update on the state of business in its second annual “Listening to Business” walkabout on Wednesday, March 2. Volunteers are needed now. Last year, nearly 90 businesspeople paired up in two-person teams and visited almost 500 retail, office and industrial businesses to discover how they were surviving — and in many cases thriving — during the recession. The results? While some businesses were struggling, many believed strongly in Auburn’s ability to weather the economic storm. A majority of them did, and while some challenges continue, most agree Auburn is still a great place to work, live and play. From a brief orientation to completion, the walkabout will take about three hours — from 8 to 11 a.m. If you would like to participate, hear what business is saying and be a part of Auburn’s economic revival, volunteer by calling the chamber at (530) 885-5616, ext. 223.